June 30, 2009 (by 1st Lt. John Callahan & USMC Sgt. Andrew Miller) - Approximately 150 members of the 14th FS together with members of a range of support units drawn from the 35th Fighter Wing prepared to return to Misawa AB today after spending about a month away participating in Northern Edge 2009.
USAF F-16C block 50 #92-3921 from the 13th FS takes off from Eielson AFB to participate in Northern Edge 2009, a joint training mission over the Gulf of Alaska on June 25th, 2009. [USMC photo by Lance Cpl. Ryan A. Rholes]
Northern Edge is a massive, multi-service exercise that sprawled across the sea and skies of America's largest state. The Misawa contingent flew and supported a dozen F-16 Fighting Falcons, occasionally acting as aggressors versus aircraft from other units. It marked the first time the 14th FS
participated in this annual exercise.
"Our participation in this exercise was valuable in a number of ways," said Lt. Col. Shane Riza, 14th FS
commander. "First, it's good to see an overall level of threat greater than that we normally deal with here. Beyond that, this exercise required us to integrate with the Navy and Marines and with other Air Force units particularly with those flying the Eagles and the Raptors, which we don't normally see."
Northern Edge 2009 covered the two-week period from June 15 to June 26. The 14th FS arrived here early, Riza said, to take advantage of the training opportunities afforded by Alaska's expansive airspace and bombing ranges.
"We were able to get quite a bit of training done in that time," he noted. "We did some live weapons drops, shot missiles, and a few other things we aren't able to do back in Japan. We were also able to accomplish a lot of upgrade training and qualification training, including instructor upgrades, outside of the Northern Edge exercise itself."
Northern Edge, which involved almost 200 aircraft, provided nearly 9,000 service members from all branches of the military the opportunity to train together on, above and afloat in Alaska's massive training areas. In addition to the permanent personnel already here, almost 2,000 personnel deployed to Alaska from the United States, Japan and South Korea
while another 5,000 were stationed aboard an aircraft carrier in the Gulf of Alaska.
"This exercise was designed to train participants in a joint environment, which is an essential element of preparation for combat," said Air Force Brigadier Gen. Mark W. Graper, 354th Fighter Wing commander. "It allows the service members to practice tactics, techniques and procedures which need to be synchronized between the different branches of the military."